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Lusca and other Giant Octopuses
Since the release of the classic movie, “Jaws,” beach goers have been leery of swimming in the deep, blue sea. I have to agree the jaws on that shark were awful big and full of teeth! I’m certain, though, that I would be just as terrified if a long, pink tentacle wrapped itself around my leg and started pulling me down into the depths of the ocean.
One of the first fairly well-documented sightings of a giant octopus occurred around Thanksgiving of 1896. Two bicycling boys discovered an enormous light pink mass that had washed up on the beach at St. Augustine, Florida. Although only partly visible in the sand, what could be seen was measured as 18 feet long and 7 feet wide. When examined by Dr. DeWitt Webb at the time, he was convinced that the mass was a giant octopus. Recent research has led biologists to back up Dr. Webb’s identification.
Photographs were taken of the octopus, unfortunately, they no longer exist, although there are sketches of the carcass.
A local resident found several “arms” near the body of the giant octopus. The longest one was said to measure thirty-two feet.
Correspondence between Dr. Webb and a scientist colleague, Dr. A. E. Verrill (discoverer of the giant squid), indicates that Dr. Verrill eventually determined the specimen to actually be a giant squid, rather than an octopus. In the January,1897 issue of the American Journal of Science, and an 1897 issue of the magazine Nautilus, the creature was referred to as a squid. Although, the January 3, 1897 issue of the New York Herald indicates Verrill had stated the creature was a portion of an octopus that weighed twenty tons, with a tentacle span of two hundred feet. An article in the February issue of the American Journal of Science corroborated this verdict, naming it Octopus giganteus.
A few weeks after its initial discovery, the monster returned to the sea from which it came. Then washed back up again on another beach a short time later!
At one point, using four horses and six men, Dr. Webb tried to turn the giant octopus over but, was not very successful. He was able to move the beast higher up the beach, discovering that it was actually twenty-one feet long. The body was then opened up, and the internal organs removed. The organs were smaller than expected, and “did not look as if the animal had been so long dead.” The tissue was very hard, and extremely difficult to cut.
Dr. Webb encouraged Dr. Verrill to travel to Florida to examine the body of the beast, but he was unable to make it. Dr. Webb did send some samples to him, which he received February 23. In the article published in the New York Herald on February 14, 1897, Dr. Verrill hypothesized that the tentacles would have been over one hundred feet long. He went on to speculate that the creature may have been injured or killed by a sperm whale, partially eaten, and then washed up on shore.
There has been no documentation found to indicate what ultimately happened to the giant octopus, and it wasn’t until 1957, that Forrest G. Wood, searching through some old files of the Marineland Research Lab, came across the newspaper clippings. The only remains left of the creature were some tissue samples at the Smithsonian. These samples were examined by scientists at this time, who verified the giant octopus theory.
The Lusca of Andros Island is said to live in the blue holes of Bimini, hundreds of feet deep, with the largest one a quarter of a mile in diameter. The clear waters of the holes reveal stalagmites and stalactite indicating that the holes are actually an immense network of underground caves formed during the ice ages. These small freshwater lakes connect to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Lusca, has been described as incredibly large, unbelievably fast, having the jaws of a shark, and the tentacles of an octopus. Usually referred to as a female, she is often blamed for lost ships. Some locals state that the Lusca steals people off of ships as well. Divers into the blue holes in 1984 reported seeing giant shrimp and crabs in the blue holes, which would meet the dietary needs of a giant octopus. At attempt to trap these creatures, and bring them to the surface was met with resistance from below! Something very heavy kept breaking the trap lines when they would try to raise them. At one point, the diver’s boat appeared to be “dragging,” and he saw “a pyramid shape approximately fifty feet high,” on his sonar. A few minutes later, something began to drag his boat “along at a speed of around one knot.” When the diver put his hand close to the trap rope, he felt “thumps like something was walking, and the vibrations were traveling up the rope.” Suddenly, the rope loosened, the trap was raised, and found to be bent on one side. The divers have no doubt that the culprit was a giant octopus.
Local witnesses have also described boats of fishermen being pulled beneath the water in the blue holes. Pieces of the boat float to the top, but there is never a sign of the sailors.
In 2005, an underwater photographer was attacked by a fifty-foot octopus that actually took his camera away from him. The largest identified Giant Pacific Octopus was six hundred pounds with an arm span of thirty feet.
Scott Cassell, world-class diver and underwater cameraman was part of the Monsterquest Investigation Team (please see citation) which included R J. Myers and Dale Pearson. Cassell had previously had an altercation with a giant octopus having a beak similar to a parrot’s about four feet in diameter.
Myers heard a legend while growing up about an octopus measuring forty to sixty feet living beneath the ruins of the original Narrows Bridge. During one of Myers’ dives, he found evidence of an octopus den in an underwater cave. In 2002, Homeland Security shut down the divers.
With ninety-five percent of the world’s oceans still unexplored, I have no doubt that many more amazing cryptids will be discovered from below our briny seas.
References/Sources/Additional Information and Reading:
Coleman, Loren and Jerome Clark. Cryptozoology A to Z. NY: Fireside, 1999.
http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/master.html?http://www.naturalhistorymag.com/editors_pick/ 1971_03_pick.html Pick from the Past Natural History, March 1971
PART III: In Which Bahamian Fishermen Recount Their Adventures with the Beast
By F. G. Wood
Monsterquest: Episode 211 Boneless Horror
(1989) Oxford English Dictionary, Second, Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Or Speculum Regale, the "King's Mirror".
Anon. 1985: Giant Octopus Blamed for Deep Sea Fishing Disruptions. ISC Newsletter 4(3): 1-6.
Anon. 1988: Bermuda Blob Remains Unidentified. ISC Newsletter7(3): 1-6.
Benjamin, G.J. 1970: Diving Into the Blue Holes of the Bahamas. National Geographic September.
Clark, J. 1993: Unexplained! Visible Ink Press, Detroit.
Dinsdale, T. 1972: Monster Hunt. Acropolis Books, Washington, D.C.
Ellis, R. 1994: Monsters of the Sea. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.
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